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Michael Rugnetta Headshot

On the Cutting Room Floor for State of Play

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I paid no attention to the dialogue during the Ben's Chili Bowl scene of State of Play. That's because I was looking for myself. That's right! I was an extra during the filming of State of Play last year in DC. I went for the one-day shoot at Ben's Chili Bowl where I just sat in the extras' holding pen for most of the day. I was there for about 10 hours and made 80 bucks - not bad, altogether.

I filmed two shots for the Chili Bowl sequence. In one shot I was in the background of the actual restaurant while Russell Crowe's character places an order. Crowe then looks out the window where, across the street, he spots the junkie-informant who has been following him. I was also in that shot, walking past the junkie. It was my fervent hope that I had destroyed the continuity of the film by appearing in both shots. Maybe I would end up in one of those fun movie bloopers lists. Unfortunately, the sequence was edited in such a way that I did not see myself at all. It also was edited very quickly.

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When the DVD comes out, I'll make sure to slow it down and double-check to see if I am in there. I'm still hoping that in the director's commentary there is a mention of "some guy ruining the continuity" which resulted in resulted in such quick edits. But that's probably just a pipe dream.

For now, my only claim of Hollywood stardom is a shot of my shoulder which appeared in a church scene in Wide Awake, M. Night Shyamalan's 1998 precursor to The Sixth Sense. It was filmed at my grade school, which Shyamalan also attended, and a bunch of the students got a chance to be extras. The long waiting periods that the extras had to endure proved unbearable for my rambunctious fifth-grader self, so I only did two days of the filming. These days, I am a bit more disciplined and was able to not only sit all day at the State of Play shoot, I was also able to write an article on neuroethics for Science Progress which I am shamelessly linking to.

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(BTW: I did not meet Russell Crowe formally, but I did see him walk to his trailer while smoking a cigarette.)

Anyway, on the whole, I though State of Play was a pretty good movie. I think that there were a few plot holes towards the end so that they could quickly tack on the final surprise. And like most mystery thrillers, you have to suspend disbelief occasionally in order for the various coincidences to make sense. But it was suspenseful, had good performances, and even incorporated some interesting themes about the changing face of modern journalism. As a DC resident, I loved to see my everyday environment splashed across the screen -- from Chinatown to the Rosslyn Metro.

I've heard that the original British miniseries is much better so I plan to put it on my Netflix queue. I definitely got the sense that the plot would work out much better in a longer form with more room to breathe.